So Dante and Randall are back – great news for all lovers of the original (and it was definitely original) movie.
OK, so fans of Clerks will be disappointed that the new film is in colour, has a bigger budget and is a lot slicker than the anarchically amateur looking 1994 film but the essential genius of the idea is intact.
Ten years have passed since quick-witted, ever talkative, terminally nerdy no-hopers, Dante and Randall eked out their existence as sales clerks at Quick Groceries in New Jersey’s equivalent of a seedy corner of Staines.
Those ten years, with the cruelty of passing time, have turned those 22 year olds into 32 year olds. They have put on weight and started to sag, lost whatever bloom their youth might have ever sported and they are still in no hope jobs – now in a fast food establishment which makes McDonalds look like the restaurant of Jamie Oliver’s dreams.
They might not have made it into the comfortable world of over-achievers’ dreams but they have kept their wit and their sardonic ability to analyze the world from their own perspective dominated by thoughts of sex, computer games and the Star Wars trilogy.
Philadelphia Weekly: “Lacking the grubby authenticity of its predecessors, the movie feels clueless and out of touch. Sometimes you can’t go home again.”
USA Today: “Kevin Smith has grown up, even if his films haven’t. That might explain why Clerks II can’t quite decide how old it wants to act.”
Channel 4: “Outrageously gross, unashamedly sentimental and very, very funny”
Kevin Smith’s debut film was made when he was still working in the convenience store where the story line was based and they could only film at night when it was closed. Money was tight and most of the actors were amateur. All this gave the film an unbeatable authenticity that the more professional sequel has to struggle to match.
Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Jeff Anderson (Randall), almost like characters in a long-running TV reality show, have aged with their characters and, to an uncanny degree, have even grown up with them. Will they return every ten years to give us their refreshing anarchy? I hope so.
This film, like its predecessor, is really an extended dialogue between the two main characters given tremendous zest by O’Halloran and Anderson’s rapport. They are a great double act, an American equivalent of Withnail and 1. More than a pinch of pepper is added to the mix by their realization that time has indeed moved on and conventional life has still not quite claimed them.
Written with real humour, social observation and cultural bite by director Kevin Smith, it is never frightened of being just plain vulgar like the bizarre debate about the doubtful attractiveness of Dante’s fiancé Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach) whose “over-sized clit is just an under-sized dick.”
Fans of the first film will be delighted that Smith also reprised his character of Silent Bob, the straight man to acid-head, street dancing Jay (the irrepressible Jason Mewes). The other pair of bonded male buddies and the most unlikely drug dealers in movie history.
Both films have their floundering moments but second time round, the weaknesses are less to do with inexperience as with the growing sentimentality of dawning middle age. As such Clerks II is a Hollywood buddy movie like many another but it also has a touch of Four Weddings and a Funeral as Dante’s on-off, nice girl/awful girl romances wax and wane.
Maybe it is part of Kevin Smith’s feel for real life that he is not frightened to recognize the essential role of sentimentality in friendship as well as in romantic love.
Rosario Dawson is way too raunchy and charismatic to be a conventional Miss Right anyway – she even has a passing interest in “inter-species eroticism” for Gawd’s sake.
Trevor Fehrman as the young and impressionable virgin Baptist, Elias manages to hold his own (literally at one point) in this dynamic cast and has some of the best jokes too as Kevin Smith mercilessly and hilariously sends up The Lord of the Rings and its many disciples.
Clerks II is very funny and very rude about religion, race, drugs, popular culture and, of course, sex. It has kept an alternative voice ringing in our ears when many other films preach sermons on the value of material and professional success in our ever more competitive culture.
It may not be the greatest film ever made but go see it – after hiring the first film before you go – it might just make you feel better about yourself. It will definitely make you laugh unless you’ve never been amused by the vulnerability, nerdiness and innate slobbishness of masculinity.
Jennifer Schwalbach Smith